Transitioning….still trans??

A few days ago, I was once again a guest on a talk radio show, Gender Talk. The host contacts me to be on the show when they are going to be discussing topics specific to the Transgender community. On this particular occasion, one of the topics/questions sort of stuck with me and the discussion that followed got me to thinking a lot about my specific circumstances.

The question had to do with what does it mean to be Transgendered, which was the theme of the show. One of the comments that was brought up had to do with how individual perceive themselves as trans, or not, as the case may be. I mentioned that I had been involved in a discussion a short while ago with a few trans people regarding this, and one of them stated that they no longer considered themselves to be transgendered. They had completed their transition (whatever that meant for them) and were living full time as their authentic gender. They were no longer “transitioning”.

In their mind, therefore, they did not see themselves as “trans”. They had nothing against the idea or concept, but for them, they were a man. Full stop. So, that got me thinking. Thinking about my circumstances, thoughts and feelings. And the more of thought about it, the more I could understand their point of view. Furthermore, the more I considered it, the more I began to identify with that concept as well! I had never really given it much consideration before.

I know that many of us don’t advertise we are transgendered, and go about our life in “stealth” mode, as it were. And I am no different. I don’t were a t-shirt that states I am trans. I don’t introduce myself as Erin, a transwoman. I’m just me. Erin. That being said, there are many aspects of my life where my transition was very public, so I don’t even try to ignore it. Particularly in my work environment. I transitioned in front of about 22,000 stakeholders, and having been with the organization for over 25 years, everyone knows. But, fortunately for me, it’s not a big deal. In fact, it’s no deal at all! The same can be said for my friends, family and neighbours. It’s just who I am to them, and they are all good with it. No issues.

I did start to think about it. Do I really, deep down, still consider myself to be transgendered? Now, don’t get me wrong, I am very proud of who I am, and proud to be transgendered. But do I really feel that way? In all aspects of my life, I am a woman. And am fully accepted as such in all aspects of my life. For all intents and purposed, my transition is done.

Once you are your authentic gender, living as who you really are, full time, open and honestly, is the transgender label still appropriate, or more specifically, is it even accurate? I don’t have the answer. I know how I feel, but that doesn’t mean anything to anyone but me. Okay, and maybe some TERFs who feel the need to attack me for my views, but I digress. If everyone treats me and accepts me as the woman I am, does it serve any purpose to keep the trans label? Is it confusing for my little brain? Personally, I don’t think so, as I feel that I am managing just fine, with no major issues in that regard.

I continue to advocate on behalf of transgendered people in my own little way, by doing speaking engagements, educational sessions, radio and other media appearances, and volunteer work. So I don’t deny it, not at all. In fact, I do the very opposite and embrace it. It is a interesting thing for me to ponder, and I wonder if others do as well. Don’t know.

A concept that will continue to percolate for a bit longer I think…

The terrible twos…part deux

Continuing the discussion from my previous post…

There may be another set of circumstances that lead up to the difficulties that some transgender people experience in the second year of being “full time”. Perhaps, and I say that only because this is my opinion and not that of anyone else…is that they continue to struggle.

For many in the trans community, sad to say, the journey they under take to become their authentic selves and transition is fraught with difficulties. They may range from simply not feeling comfortable in their new life as they adjust and weak self confidence, to a whole myriad of really nasty things. I personally know some trans people that were fired from their job when they came out at work. Unfortunately, they live in a location that does not have any protections regarding gender identity. They can be fired for simply being who they are, transgendered. And legally, they have no recourse. None, nada, zip.

For others, while they may have protections via various statutes or legislation etc, they do not have the resources to pay for a legal action. And while they may be eligible for the services of a public defender, the case load for them is overwhelming and the case is not a priority. So it would take months for anything to come to court. Of course, there is also the ever popular tactic of using another excuse to fire them so that the trans issue is not stated as a reason. So they are totally trapped. So sad, so wrong, so….sucky!!

Others have been evicted from their apartments. Again, in some jurisdictions, there are protections, in others, not so much. And the same issues with initiating legal action as stated above come into play. And that is what some sectors of society count on. So, they know they can get away with it.

Another issue involves family and friends. Transgender people are often shunned by both family and friends. They loose their support  network fast and suddenly and that has to be a devastating blow, emotionally for sure! Many times it has to do with the fact that these family members and friends don’t understand what it means to have gender dysphoria and be transgender. And if they don’t understand something, it must therefore be bad and they are afraid of it. So what do they do? They disengage. Not thinking in the least how that impacts the individual.

Many times, and I speak from personal experience now, some people make it all about themselves. They are extremely concerned about how society will view them if they are seen to be supporting and accepting of a transperson in their family or in their life. “Are people going to think I am trans as well?” “Or will they think I’m gay?” These are questions going around in their heads. Of course this is totally ridiculous on the one had, but somewhat understandable on the other. Now, don’t go flying of the wall at me…just because I said it was understandable, doesn’t mean I agree with, or accept it. It just means that when you put yourself inside their heads, you can see how they got there. Typically these people refuse any assistance, access to accurate and reliable resources, etc, and choose not to educate themselves. Such a shame and totally avoidable. But it takes all kinds I guess?

So where am I going with all of this? For some people that “come out”, they face some or all of these challenges. But they initially have hope. They hope that their lives will get better in the future. They hope they will be able to rebuild their lives, some of their friends and family may come back into their lives, they will find suitable employment, etc, etc, etc. So they hold onto the hope that things will change. But low and behold, year two and they are still facing the same struggles.

They get frustrated, start to loose hope and are overwhelmed with a sense of despair. Hence the “terrible twos” strike for them. In a different way and for different reasons than discussed in my previous post. None the less, they find themselves in the same mindset.

I guess, given all this, I shouldn’t be too surprised that many transpeople do experience what I call the “terrible twos”. I am fortunate, that for me, I haven’t had that experience. At least not yet. Who knows, maybe it’s lying in wait, just around a corner, ready to pounce and totally wipe me out. So I steel myself for the possibility. However, until such time (should it ever come), I continue to go about my life, do my job, hang out with wonderful friends and just do my thing with no acknowledgement from society other than I am a woman going about my day. I don’t know what I did to deserve such a fortunate thing, but I’m rolling with it. I only wish I knew how to replicate it so that I could bestow it on all those that struggle.

What’s next….the tumultuous teenage years?? Sigh.

Transitioning, the terrible twos…

In speaking with a number of people who have transitioned, along with anecdotal evidence on numerous sites, trans people have made comments regarding life after going “full time” that have a common thread. It has to do with the second year of full time. Many, not all, but many, have commented to me and others, that there is something that goes on during the second year. Being that is where I am right now, I was quite interested.

What they notice and comment on has to do with a general sense of malaise and discomfort in their lives. This I find to be fascinating, if not concerning. I am always concerned about how this all impacts our journey and appreciate hearing about any potential for emotional “backpedaling” so to speak, to prepare for it and hopefully avoid it. I mean really, after all this work, the last thing I need to do is go back to a darker,  unhappy time. So of course, I wanted to know more about it.

Many don’t really know the reason for it. Most also comment that it went away on it’s own. So here I sit, with my own quiet thoughts late into the evening, trying to see what I can glean from all of this. How does this impact me? Is it happening or going to happen to me? Why does it happen? What can I do about it? So many questions. And here is the location that I have decided to try to figure some of this out. It won’t be all come at once, trust me on that. My furry little brain can only do so much. So I suspect this is going to be something that comes up again in future posts.

My current thoughts are these. For many, the first year of full time is full of “firsts”. Coming out as your true self leads to feelings of genuine happiness and contentment. A realization that your worst fears did not come true. While there may have been some loss, a huge loss in my case of my partner and marriage, there have also been many “wins”. You may still have your job, many of your friends. No issues in going about your daily life. And for some, yes, their long term relationships are still intact. So lots of positives.

For many, it is also a time of a great deal of validation. Many are telling you on a regular basis how brave you are, how much happier you appear, how you look so great, etc, etc, etc. You are getting used to hearing your proper name. People start to settle in using the correct gender. You are welcomed into your new tribe. One can see how easily that can “go to your head”. It’s pretty heady to hear that on a regular basis when you first come out. Your ego gets stroked, you feel really great about yourself and you are constantly being acknowledged for all your hard work. And justifiably so. It is hard work. And for many of us, it’s the first time that we are hearing those words and feel good about who we really are, so I get it.

But as time passes, these comments become rare. People get on with their lives and expect you do to the same. Friends no longer make a fuss over you. Co workers are back to talking about work etc, and just want to get the job done and expect you do do the same. The novelty of “being trans” in their eyes has worn out. You are the new you. Done. You are no longer in the spot light. Welcome to year two of being full time.

So is that the issue? Is it a sense of not feeling special anymore? No longer any external validation. It can be, I imagine, a shock to the system. I can see how one could become a bit sad, probably unconsciously of course, that all the fuss is over. We are not egomaniacs. We are now expected to be just like all the others of their correct gender, and get on with life. We still think this is a big deal. The culmination of years of pain, suffering and hard work. Maybe we don’t want the party to end yet? I don’t know. Pure speculation on my part.

For me, I don’t have any of those feelings. At least not yet. The pedal came of the rose quite some time ago. People were immediately so accepting, which is great. For me, my life went to the “new normal” pretty quickly. All I ever wanted was to go about my life as me, the woman I was meant to be. And that is exactly what has happened. I work, I play, I laugh, I cry, as me. No issues. I shop, pay my bills, go to movies, dine out alone or with friends, and people around me are just going about their day, focusing on their lives and not concerned with me, at all.

And isn’t that the goal we all want? For me yes, so I assume every trans person wants that as well. Maybe not? Regardless, it is happening. Personally, I’m good with it. This is all I have ever wanted. Just to move about the world as me. Do I get anxious at times!  You bet, particularly in new or first time situations. But that doesn’t keep me from engaging. This is my life, and I’m going to live it, full speed.

Next time, part two, when things don’t go well…

Letting a little more light in…

Early in the week I had one of my somewhat regularly scheduled appointments with my main therapist. As always, it turned out to be a good thing. I had been struggling with a few things going on in the past little while and really needed to talk them out with 1)someone who knows me and how I think, such as it is, and 2) more objective than I can be. We had a great discussion, in fact went over by 30 minutes! But she always puts me at the end of her day so she can end her day on a high note…I guess I am the least screwed up of her patients, which really doesn’t say much about the others?!?!?. Anywho, it was her decision, so she didn’t charge me extra. Which is fair, since I have pretty much financed her new condo for her anyway!! Ha ha.

In relating my situation, interactions and concerns, it turns out that I was somewhat on the right track in some things, and benefited greatly from thinking about certain things in a different way. Or at least, considering a different perspective. Long story short, time to cut loose a lot of negative energy in my life right now. I’m not as strong as I thought, and trying to deal with it in my current state is not good. I have a tendency to go down a rabbit hole and beat myself up about things, thereby going deeper down the hole to a very dark place. Not any more.

The outcome?? Letting people go in my life and not worrying about it. Put the ball in their court. Wait for them. If they engage, I’ll be receptive, but stop trying to please everyone and “leading with my chin”. Cuz that is only going to result in me getting beat up emotionally….again. Sigh.

So that is what I have done. I’m going silent with those people. Staying out of their way. If they don’t want to engage, so be it. Let it go. There is only so much I can control. I can control how I feel and how I react. I can’t control how they feel or react. So why bang my head against the wall? Why give them control over me by letting them push my buttons? This is really tough journey. Why make it more difficult? So, I’m taking my power back. If they want to be obstinate and stew, let ’em. But not in my corner of the world.

It goes against a lot of what makes me, me. I like to think I am receptive and want everyone to get along. But at some point you have to realize that this is not working. Time to cut bait. So I have. Fortunately, as I have said before, 95% of my life is amazing with so many wonderful people in my life. I just have to deal with this 5%. And this is what I’m going to do. Right or wrong, I don’t know. I just know what I need to do for me right now.

Maybe they just need the time to figure out what they really what, how they really want to engage me (if at all) in a way that is appropriate and acceptable to everyone. Maybe they need to figure that out without me poking at them. So guess what. They have all the time in the world they want. I am getting on with my life, building my family unit of me and my two girls. If any else wants to come along for the ride, fine, but I’m not going to put anymore thought or energy into it until they show me they are ready to engage.

Enough. Time for me to let some wounds heal.

You can’t choose your family…

This past weekend I had the complete pleasure of attending a family gathering for my brother’s 40th wedding anniversary. It was at my nieces house, a pool party/BBQ. Normally, …hmmm, no that isn’t the right word….let’s say, “in the past” (cuz there was nothing “normal” about it… in the past, that would have terrified me. First, because I would not want to have been seen…to be out in public in, what to me was, my disturbing body. Second, to have to talk about myself. That was definitely not worth the time or effort. So not exactly my idea of a good time. Especially with people outside of my family, friends etc, there that I didn’t know. That would have had all the makings of a really good disaster.

However, that was definitely not the case, and I knew it wouldn’t be. I was truly excited to be going! And I wasn’t disappointed. I had a blast! This was probably my first family & friends gathering since I transitioned. All family members of course knew. Some family friends knew. Many did not. So it was a bit of a mixed bag. But it all worked out, no issues. I was not the center of attention, and that is how it should be. Of course, the event was about my brother and my sister-in-law. Sometimes, inadvertently, I can become the centre of attention at gatherings, if only for a brief period of time. Not cool. So that worked out nicely. We just gathered to chill, spend time with great people, watch all the little ones splash around in the pool, raise a glass in celebration, and catch up with each other. Awesome.

As much fun as the actually party was, the best part for me was after the guests had left and it was just the 12 of us…family. That was my chance to just settle in with them and enjoy. I miss the friendly banter as we poke fun at each other. Listen to all the stories, remark on all the successes, of which there were many! And of course talk about our challenges and issues, accepting advice when available. It was a loving, fun environment. And I really miss it. Don’t bet me wrong, I love my life, super content. But there is something special about being with family. With my family. From my perspective, I am closer to them now that at any other time in the past five decades. I guess it’s because I can be who I really am. Just me. And that is fine with everyone. So I can relax and be present in the moment. The dysphoria is gone, so my brain is clear and able to be there for others instead of focusing on how crappy I felt, which is where I was in the past.

There’s an old saying….”you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family”. Well for me, if I had the chance to pick, I would pick the same people! (okay, maybe not my parents, but that’s a different story for another day). My family is so cool. Really bright people, each successful in their own way, happy with who they are, caring and loving. Perfect. I’ll take it. That’s not to say we all haven’t had our struggles. Gawd yes. But they have always been there for each other, and continue to do so even as some of us still struggle with something in our lives. We are not a perfect family by any means. Not even close. But we are tight.

And that’s all that matters.

Transitioning…reconciling the past

I was at a speaking engagement a short while ago at which a member of the audience asked me a question that I had not received before. I was asked what did I do, or how have I managed, the record of past events. Wow! I needed just a bit more information, so I probed a bit. What she was really looking to learn was what did I do about photos, and publications, and even memories. Alrighty then!

That was a lot all in one question. So, easy stuff first. Memories. I do have wonderful memories of times with my family etc. There are no issues with any of that. I can recall them with no uncomfortable feelings at all. Because I recall them in the first person, looking out my eyes, I can’t see myself in my memories, what I looked like etc. So it was just me in the experience. And that is who I am now, so no issues there. I recall moments with my family, my children, etc, with the same joy as I did previously.

As for publications etc, that is a bit of a different story. What was published under my dead name will always be out there under “that” name. Nothing I can do about it. The good news is that I don’t see them at all. I don’t go looking them up etc, so I never see my old name in print. Again, not a big issue.

Then we come to photographs. That is a different story. That is a sticky point right now. It is very difficult for me to look at photos of me as my “old self”. Can’t do it, just can’t do it. Fortunately, I wasn’t in very many photographs as I hated having my picture taken back then (for obvious reasons), so that makes it easier. Second, my ex took all the wedding photos, so I don’t have to deal with them. As for other photos, anything with me in it alone? Gone. That was a “no brainer”. I have the memories, that’s enough. Given that seeing my “old self” is extremely painful, I wouldn’t look at the photos anyway, so what is the point? And it probably wouldn’t be helpful to have those around the house for my girls to see….they would just fall backwards and that’s not what any of us need.

I don’t need to see me at the Great Wall, or Sydney Opera House, etc, etc, etc. I have the memories, so I’m good. Any many places I was in the past I’m going to again, so new memories will be created. New photos will be taken that I will be able to keep and look at and cherish. And there will be lots of photos as I am more than happy to have my picture taken now. Go figure!! Ha ha!

It was a really great question that both caused me to think about it, and have a very good discussion at that time. I know that this is something that is very personal and varies from person to person in the trans community. For those that can keep photos/videos of their former selves, awesome. Good for them. But I can’t. And while they may not understand it, that is how I need to manage it. Yet another thing we have to deal with.

Say “Cheese” !!

On being transgendered: waxing philosophical

There is an old saying…”every village has an idiot, if it you can’t figure out who it is, then it’s probably you”. I postulate the same can be said for families. For those of us who are transgendered, everyone else in the family thinks it’s us. We are trans, so by definition, we are the problem. At least that is my experience with a certain part of my extended family. Now, before I go any further, let me state right now that my family has been nothing but supportive and loving of me. My sister and all of her family, my brother and all of his family, my two daughters, ROCK SOLID. No, the issue lies on the other side of the matrimonial aisle.

My ex and my ex in laws. Holy! I have come to the realization given recent events (see past few blog entries) that I am their version of the village idiot. Given my interactions in my community, I don’t think I am alone in this revelation regarding trans people. Not in the least, sad to say. So why is this. Why do we have to bare the brunt of this burden? I guess we are a convenient target. Easy for them to make us the lighting rod for all of their anger and confusion and pain.

But do we really have to put up with it? In many cases, yes we do. We suck it up to try to maintain some sort of civility in the hopes that they will come around in time and re-establish a relationship of some sort that is at least heading in a positive direction. And I know that for many trans people, that does happen. But alas, for a many more, it doesn’t. And that is devastatingly sad. For everyone involved.

The interesting thing (okay not the right word, but work with me…) is that it is all so unnecessary. We are not bad people. We are not mean people. We are not stupid people. But we are people. We are doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, police, firefighters, administrators, tradespeople, who work hard and are good at what we do. We volunteer, contribute to our communities and help those who are less fortunate. We laugh, we love, we cry, we hope and we dream. Just like them.

Why are we cast in the roll of “the famjly problem”? Are we really the problem? Nope. We aren’t. But we somehow can’t shake it. We are the victims of type casting. “Oh you’re the trans person, so you’re the problem. Good to know.” Give me a f*ckin’ break. No, we are not the problem. Look in a friggin’ mirror buddy.

In 90% of my life, I am doing really well. In fact, I am doing great. My transition, for the most part has gone smoothly without a lot of disruption in my life. And I realize how fortunate I am. I have all of my immediate family, my job, and activities. I have more friends now than I have ever had before. For some reason, I am also being called on to tell my story and represent some aspects of my community, for which I am truly grateful and honoured. I am blessed. I know that, and so very very thankful.

I also know that this is not the norm and I am truly sorry for everyone that suffers and wish I could something about it. I try to help out in my city however I can. The issue for me is that I tend to focus on that 10%. The other side of the family. And for some reason, I let it define who I am. That is my problem. Well, not anymore. I came to the realization at some point around two in the morning after a good cry, that it isn’t me. It’s them. Now, everyone, settle down for a minute. I know many of you out there are going “well ya, duh!” but that is easy to say but hard to internalize. At least for me. Many people tell “oh, just give it time, they will come around, you keep reaching out, they will respond eventually” or words to that effect.

I know it is said with the best of intention, and with all sincerity. But at some point, I have to wonder, really? am I really the problem? For me, the answer is no. It’s is totally them. While it may have been convenient for them, out of guilt for wrecking a marriage, etc, I let it happen. That cannot continue. It is an emotional, energy sucking vortex that is not healthy and is dragging me down.  Well no more. I am now starting to take steps to cut that anchor. It won’t happen over night, but I have to look after me right now.

I am not the problem. They are small minded individuals, with little tolerance or acceptance. They want to stew. Fine. I’m going to let the spotlight shine on them, to expose them as the “family problem”. Cuz it sure as hell ain’t me. But here’s the trick. I can rationalize that intellectually. Hell, that is what I am trained to do. Emotionally? That’s a different story. The difficulty for me will be to reconcile all of this in my heart. That’s where the pain is. My mind is clear. My heart, not so much. Sad to say, I’m no stranger to heart ache, just as many in my community. I can only hope that I am on the right track and that I can get out of this emotional quagmire.  Time, and the help of my friends and health professionals will get me through it.

I’m not the village idiot. Call casting… that’s someone else’s role to play.

Survived, but just barely…?

Continuing on the theme of my post yesterday, I sit here on the train once again, on my way home. The event and indeed the trip was a success on many fronts. But why am I fighting back tears then? I know exactly why. If you are that bored, read on. 

I spent last evening with a dear friend of mine whom I haven’t seen for quite sometime. We went to dinner, chatted for a few hours then decided to catch the last of the pride events. It was fun and actually energizing! 

Today was really good! Watched my youngest daughter get her parchments in recognition of being called to the bar. Had a great lunch at one of the top restaurants in Toronto, and had a good chance to catch up with my two girls. All good. Then,  not so much. You see, no else wanted me in the photos, so I took my own with my two girls (see attached). Which was awesome. Then I saw the photo of my girls on Facebook with everyone else and that’s when I lost it. 

To look at that photo of my girls with my ex and my in laws (their grand parents) and know that you are not welcome is completely devastating. I thought I was going to be fine with the whole “don’t talk to us” thing. But I wasn’t. I’m not. They got their wish. They won. Makes me the loser. A loser. 

Well, I’m done. I’m done with them. I’m tired of the flow of information and olive branch offerings only going one way. From me to them. My psyche can’t deal with it any longer. So in order to take care of me, I’m done being the one reaching out. Up to them to reach out to me. And since that will never happen, I’m done. 

I hate it. It super sucks. And I might change my mind later. But for now? 

I’m done. 

Transgender, transitioning, and family

I’m writing this as I sit on the train to Toronto to attend an event tomorrow for my youngest daughter. While this is a super exciting milestone for her, it is not without drama (see post about a week ago). For those of us who are or have transitioned, family can be a huge challenge. Sometimes amazing in their support and lovel and other times, maybe not so much. And that is the case for me. 

I have always maintained that we do not transition in isolation. Everyone around us does as they try to work through what it means for them and their relationship. So I get that. I really do. But even when you aware of this and deal with it on an ongoing basis, it can still be a huge source of stress. Not just for the person transitioning, but for everyone around them. While I may have been intellectually able to process all of this, emotionally? Well, let’s just say there are challenges. 

What I discovered a few days ago was that there are a few that are still having major difficulty with it all. Which I get. That is not the surprising part. But I wasn’t ready for what was turning out to be an issue. Maybe that’s not the proper phrase. More like it was completely unexpected. Mostly because I never even considered that this would be causing others in my family angst. 

Happiness. That is the issue. The fact that I am so happy, even exuberant one might say, is a problem. While they are sad and hurt and confused and still trying to sort this all out, I’m just bopping around in my life. So happy to be who I really am that I appear so carefree and that is pissing some people off. 

I’m not thinking about how they feel. Actually, that isn’t true. Not even remotely. I am constantly thinking of them. I guess I figured that if I was happy and chatty etc, it would lighten the mood a bit, maybe decrease the tension. Well, I was wrong. Big time!

So while I’m at the event tomorrow I am to be somewhat restrained. I am to be my happy self, just toned down a bit, mindful of how others are feeling as they continue to work their way through all of this. Maybe I didn’t see it at first, but holy, I totally get it now. It makes sense. I can imagine how that would piss me off, should someone have a total disregard for my feelings. 

So, starting with the event tomorrow, I will be more mindful around others and considerate of their feelings and where they are in their own processes in working this out. No one has a manual, we are all trying to work this out as best we can. It just goes to show how important maintaining an open line of communication is. I can’t change things or address issue if I don’t know about them. We are not mind readers. So I’ve really got to work on making others feel they can tell me these things. And honestly, I’m good with that. They can tell me anyth my they want. Sure, I won’t lie. It might hurt initially, but I feel it is better for me to know than not. May not be the case for others, but I’m okay. 

Lesson learned. 

Lasting impressions?

Earlier this week, I was at a PR event in Toronto with about 450 people in attendance. It was an exhausting evening as we “worked the room” but enjoyable non-the-less. But I was fortunate enough to have an added bonus. I reconnected with someone that I missed very much.

As the old cliche goes, “there she was, across the crowded floor on the other side of the room when I spotted her…” And that is exactly what happened. A former student, but someone that I really connected with, including her family. I couldn’t run over to see her fast enough. She was in a conversation with a small group of her former classmates. As I approached her group, I caught her eye. OMG. It was a moment.

She immediately stopped talking to her friends, ran over, with tears in her eyes and gave me the biggest, longest hug ever. It was….the best! She just kept whispering in my ear “OMG I can’t believe it, I am so happy I found you again! I really missed you and need  you in my life!” My heart melted. You see, she was more than a student, she is someone very special to me. I call her my third daughter.

She has always known that I am transgender. She initially was looking for some guidance with one of her projects, and we became instant friends. We spent a lot of time together, including spending time with her mother as well, who is an amazing woman. They are very much a second family for me.

When she finally let go of me, she told me that the best thing that ever happened to her during her time at university was meeting me. Flattering to say the least, heart warming at best. I hadn’t heard anything from her for six months, which was very odd even though she moved away just before that. We would talk all the time. It turns out, however, that she had some serious unexpected health issues and went off the grid, so to speak. I figured that she was busy with her career and when she came up for air, she would contact me. But this turned out to be even better.

We chatted for several minutes and after a million more hugs, I was pulled away to meet more people. We quickly set up a time to reconnect. I recall walking away and just having such a light feeling in my heart that was comforting and warm. She is such an amazing young woman, strong, smart, determined, and drop dead gorgeous! I am so thankful she is in my life.

All this to say is that you just don’t know the lasting impression that we leave behind. And for someone to say that about me, knowing that I am trans, knowing what I have gone through and what baggage I carry, well, that’s just something very, very special. Sometimes we don’t think that we make a difference or have an impact. For me, she reminds me that yes, I do. So on days when I feel like I am getting nothing accomplished, that I am not making a difference, I think of her. And that’s enough to remind me why I do what I do. You don’t have to be some big ginormous asteroid to make an impact. I guess I do.

Just little ol’ 5’9″ me.